For years I’d wanted to enter the Oxfam Challenge, not just for charity (because that in itself is a big motivator) but I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I’m not unfit, nor am I very fit. However, 100 km’s is a long way and I didn’t have anyone to do it with until one of my friends had to pull out of the event and I happily signed up. I had three great team members who were encouraging, considerate and they’d all done this before. I was the newbie.
I didn’t get a lot of sleep before the race, I was too excited and I wanted to be sick. Knowing that your going to be walk for the next 30 hours is daunting. I’d gone over the route so many times in my head. I’d learnt every part of the track, the altitude and the different terrain. I studied the weather and knew that it was going to be humid (uncomfortable) and possibly rain. Rain I can handle, I live in Auckland. I prepped my own vegetarian meals, I had the exact protein/carbs/fat portions to give to my support crew. I read every blog I could find on ‘Oxfam trailwalkers experiences’, some were funny and some scared me.
The worst leg of the challenge was the 19 km’s of beach (flat). It was hot, humid and I hated it. Give me a hill any day. The checkpoints are a welcome site, in theory 30-60 minutes is a long time to be at a checkpoint but in reality it goes too quick. We had to eat, rest, replenish stocks, change dressings and prep the mind for the next leg.
I really enjoyed the night walking. It was cooler and exciting, I had no problem walking all night but after the 85 km mark I got blisters and they were painful. I wanted to walk bare feet but the ground was too rough on my already delicate feet. I’ve since found the best tape for blisters (see ‘blister’ tips below).
Our team expected to come in at 28 hours. We crossed the finish line in – 25 hours and 40 mins. Most of this challenge is in the head, and for me that was the last 15 km. I had plenty of energy for the first 85 km even with the sun, sore knees and not enough rest I still had energy and I wanted to finish.
I’m now going through the process of signing up for the 2018 Oxfam. Here are some things that I’ve learnt from my very first Oxfam Trail Challenge.
(1) Support Crew
We didn’t organise our support crew until the last minute, don’t do this. Our support team came from my team mates parents but hindsight we should have worked on this the moment we signed up for the challenge. Their friends came along to help out too and they were great. Your support team will be with your for the entire time, meaning they won’t sleep either (naps only). They need to listen to your pain, they feed you and they support you. Find your support crew and include them in everything including the training. Please look after them.
Do not skimp on the training, start now and make sure you have different types of terrain. Mud, sand, gravel, grass, dirt, hills, streets etc. The Oxfam page has loads of training guides to download. Work out what you are capable of and pin it up on your wall. I usually have 1-2 rest days a week, I find the light walking is gentle enough to call a rest day.
- Monday – Walk 10km – fast walk different terrain, set your timer
- Tuesday – Strength training at the gym (quads, hamstrings, calves)
- Wednesday – light walk/Rest
- Thursday – Walk 10km – big hills make sure your heart rate is elevated
- Friday – Strength training at the gym (upper)
- Saturday – Hiking 15km plus – find tracks and push yourself to the limit
- Sunday – Yoga/Rest
Ease up on your training a month before the event or you will be too exhausted. The last week before the event I did no training at all. It was difficult to do this but I’m glad I did because by the time I got to the start line my body was ready.
(3) Nutrition – training
I’m a vegetarian, I eat really healthy and it helped. The food I eat is non-processed and organic where I can. Non-processed to me is anything natural or check the labels and it needs to have less than three ingredients. I do go through stages of wanting junk food, which for me is usually cheese and crackers. Cut the junk where you can and focus on nutritious food only. Your body will thank you.
(4) Nutrition – 3 days before the event
I carb loaded 3 days before the event, I ate so much. I drank loads of water too, and I mean loads of water.
(5) Nutrition – during the challenge
I’d lost my appetite during the challenge, I’m not sure why. Might have been adrenaline or maybe it had something to do with the large amounts of carbs I’d been eating the few days before. At every checkpoint I did make sure I ate something. I never ate while we were walking.
I didn’t go near sugar foods, I packed my own but our amazing support team made great protein and carb packed foods too. We ate healthy sandwich bread with eggs and veges. Plenty of fruit and nuts.
Since walking the Oxfam 100km I’ve found a tape that is the bomb, its called Flixomull Stretch. You can get it in supermarkets or chemist and in NZ its about $7-$11 a box. It acts like another skin and doesn’t cause friction like other tapes. I had to learn the hard way, after 85km I was down to raw skin. This tape would have saved my skin and I spent about 2 months after the event fixing up my feet!
(7) Correct Shoes and Toe Nails
Even if you clip your toe nails you will still have a problem if you have the wrong shoes. I have really good hiking shoes but my problem was not clipping my nails enough. I wasn’t ruthless and the result was my toenail lifted and pushed back into the bone. I ended up with an infected toe and almost resulted in plastic surgery. My advise would be to wrap your most prone toes with the Fixomull tape.
Doubt will go through your mind but always visualise you crossing the finish line, read the details and listen to previous entrants. Then work out what you are going to do and mentally see yourself on each section. I hated the beach section and knew it was going to be the worst for me but I still visualised getting through this part.
(9) Listen to your team
This is something I’m working on. There are three others in the team and all are at different stages throughout the event. We all go through moments when we want to quit and some people show this differently. I’m that person that won’t say anything and will deal with those feelings internally. Some people don’t, they will tell you how they feel. Listen and encourage. As I say, I’m still working on this. It’s my weakness.
Feel free to add your experiences in the comments.